Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, May 24, 2004


Page 3


Attorney Faces Charges of Conspiring to Swindle 85-Year-Old Woman


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Downtown attorney Beatrice Lawson is scheduled to appear in court today on elder abuse and conspiracy charges which have already resulted in two co-defendants paying over $1 million in restitution and agreeing to give up their U.S. citizenship and return to Jordan.

Lawson was charged along with two brothers, Ismat and Nashat Sabha, with swindling 85-year-old Anne Kelly. The Sabha brothers, originally from Jordan, pled guilty to a conspiracy charge earlier this month.

Under the terms of a plea agreement, they agreed to go to Mexico and renounce their U.S. citizenship in return for suspension of seven-year prison sentences. Officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the renunciation was carried out at the U.S. consulate in Tijuana and the two returned to Jordan Thursday.

Kelly, who according to court documents suffers from dementia, lost more than $1.3 million after the brothers gained her trust and convinced her to give them access to bank and brokerage accounts, customs officials asserted. But they said she will recover all but about $128,000 of that money.

In addition to the $1.1 million restitution payment already made, customs enforcement officials said they have recovered $172,500 in additional funds.

Two other defendants—Nashat Sabha’s wife, Guadalupe Rojo Sabha, and Anita McKinnon—also entered guilty pleas earlier this month. McKinnon, who is four years older than Kelly, was accused of aiding the Sabhas but under the plea bargains was also to receive restitution, as was another elderly victim, Norah Smith.

A sixth defendant is believed to be in hiding in Jordan, customs officials said.

Lawson, who was admitted to practice in 1975 but according to State Bar records served a three-month suspension in 1995, is free on her own recognizance. She declined to comment on the charges Friday, referring inquiries to her attorney, James P. Cooper III.

Cooper did not return a call Friday.

A declaration in the court file by customs Special Agent John Rocha detailing his investigation asserted that Lawson had previously represented Nashat Sabha and became involved in the effort to swindle Kelly in August of 2002 after the suspicions of bank officials were aroused by Kelly’s attempt to wire $450,000 from one of her accounts to a Sabha relative in Jordan. Lawson accompanied Kelly to the bank and sought unsuccessfully to convince bank officials to complete the wire transfer, Rocha declared.

Later, after a brokerage became suspicious about activity in one of Kelly’s accounts and notified Adult Protective Services, Lawson wrote to the agency to assure investigators that Kelly had the capacity to manage her own affairs, Rocha asserted.

Lawson’s intervention succeeded in convincing a social worker to close the agency’s inquiry, Rocha said.

Rocha also reported telephone conversations with the defendant who is believed to be hiding in Jordan in which the man, a nephew of Ismat Sabha, said his uncle had repeatedly “told him to run Anne Kelly over with his car and make it look like an accident.” The nephew said he made at least one such attempt before being deported in 2003, Rocha asserted.


Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company